Geological engineers use their knowledge of geology and engineering principles in the construction and building industries. For example, they might develop plans to blast a tunnel through a mountain or build a bridge over a gully. Two common degrees in the field are the Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in Geological Engineering. Both offer graduates career options in the geological engineering profession. Depending on the state and specific career, a Professional Engineer license may be required.
In terms of admissions requirements, for a bachelor's program, a high school diploma and strong standardized test scores. For a master's program, a bachelor's degree in geological engineering or a similar field, a GPA of at least 3.0 and strong Graduate Records Examination (GRE) scores. It's preferred that bachelor's applicants have some background knowledge in calculus, physics, and physical science. Master's candidates who have received an undergraduate degree from an ABET-accredited program might have an edge.
Bachelor of Science in Geological Engineering
Geological engineering is an interdisciplinary field that combines the principles of engineering with the study of geology and the Earth's systems. Students gain a foundational understanding of biological structures, soils, and rocks while also completing studies in math, the engineering sciences, and technology. They then apply these principles to complex issues such as environmental design, geological imaging technology, groundwater hydrology, and geophysical exploration.
In addition to studying advanced math and geology, students in a bachelor's degree program in geological engineering must complete courses related to engineering, physics, and design. Some examples include calculus, mineralogy, chemistry, and geophysics in addition to the following:
- Principles of engineering
- Materials and mechanics
- Applied design and field methods
- Rock mechanics
Find schools that offer these popular programs
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Master's Degree in Geological Engineering
Master's degree programs in geological engineering build upon the basic principles taught in bachelor's degree programs in the field, while also providing students with the skills and training necessary to conduct extensive research and solve complex geo-environmental problems. Many such programs also require students to complete a thesis paper or project that further explores a particular issue in geological engineering.
Besides completing core coursework, students enrolled in a master's degree program in geological engineering are often required to complete electives related to a particular specialization, such as mining, geotechnics, or groundwater engineering. Some examples of these courses include water analysis, paleontology, hydrogeochemistry, and petrology in addition to the following:
- Geological data analysis
- Statistical applications in geology
- Advanced mineralogy
- Research and thesis
Popular Career Options
Though a graduate degree may be necessary for advancement, there are several entry-level positions in geological engineering available to bachelor's level graduates. Potential employers include:
- Mining and oil companies
- Construction firms
- Government agencies
- Consulting engineering firms
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), mining and geological engineers held 8,000 jobs in the United States in 2015, and employment in this field was expected to grow by 6% from 2014-2024 (www.bls.gov). Many of these professionals worked for architectural services, while others were employed by oil extraction companies, metal ore mining, coal mining, and support activities for mining. The BLS also reported that the median salary in the field in 2015 was roughly $94,040.
Individuals who are interested in working in academia and/or research might consider enrolling in a Ph.D. program in geochemistry, geo-engineering or mining engineering and technology.
Engineers who work directly with the public are required to earn state licensure, according to the BLS. Though requirements vary by state, they often include graduating from an ABET-accredited program, a number of years of work experience, and passing a 2-part test. After passing the exam, a licensed engineer is known as a Professional Engineer (PE).
Education and training in geological engineering is available to students in the form of both bachelor's and master's degree programs. After graduating, many students go on to careers with mining and oil companies or Government agencies.